Monday, December 17, 2007

Between Barack and a Hard Place: Second City of Chicago's 94th Revue

Last night Bonnie and I attended Between Barack and a Hard Place, a hilarious revue at Second City in Chicago. Without prior knowledge, we were there on the 48th anniversary of the comedy club's founding in an old Chinese laundry in 1959. We got to sing "Happy Birthday" to the club at the beginning of the third set of the evening.

As you can guess from the title, the revue had a good bit of political humor. The members of the troupe began by all declaring that they were Barack Obama, representing every ethnic group and special interest in the country. This theme is repeated throughout the revue with variations. Other sketches deal with terrorism, minor countries that support U. S. occupation of Iraq, tax preparations, smoking in the workplace, and the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Two musical pieces that I particularly liked featured Meagan Flanigan singing a love song to Al Gore and Amber Ruffin singing about why it is a good time to be black.

Other than Obama and Clinton, no other presidential candidates were mentioned in the show. Public libraries were mentioned in the bungling terrorists sketch.

Not all the humor was political. Many of the skits revolved around the problems of being socially awkward. The comedians parodied couples entertaining other couples, students on dates, and workers discussing their sexual orientations. There was not time for applauding because you kept laughing.

One of the pleasures of attending Second City performances is wondering whether you will see any of the players later on television and in movies. So many alums have gone on to great careers in comedy and acting. We may have some trouble being certain of who we saw last night. The photos on the playbill insert are a bit grainy. We are sure that Flanigan and Ruffin were there. Dave Colan was also obviously Dave Colan. Was the guy in the glasses Joe Canale? Was the guy who played Lincoln Tim Sniffen? Who was the other guy? He most definitely did not look like Ithamar Enriquez.

The third and final set for the night was impromptu skits. The players asked the audience for ideas and did "something wonderful right away." Some of the biggest laughs of the night came in these skits.

Here is a bit of advise for attending The Second City, which I recommend:
  • Wear warm clothes if you are going in winter. We are not sure whether there was any heat. The crowd did not warm the club.
  • Park in the garage just west the club. Unless you park at roof level, you can get in and out without being in the rain or snow. Like the club, it is still cold and there may be ice to avoid while walking into the building. While there is snow, the side streets are a poor choice, as the plowed snow traps lots of cars.
  • The waiters and waitresses will keep a running tab for you into the second set of the revue. There are nonalcoholic drinks, food, and desserts available in the club.
  • There are numerous restaurants in the immediate area. Even suburbanites will recognize the chains.
Libraries with comedy collections should consider the books and DVDs for sale by Second City.


Marilyn said...

Keep up the good work. Merry Christmas!

Robert said...

I visited Second City in 1974 when I was at Great Lakes, twice. The first time, I went in uniform with a friend and we were harassed by some of the 'actors.' The second time, we went in civilian clothes and had a wonderful time. Thanks for the review. It brought back mixed memories for me!

Anonymous said...

Hello, this is Tim Sniffen; Your blog came up in a search I was doing on the show's title. Yes, I was Lincoln, Joe Canale wears glasses -- and Ithamar had a sore throat that night, so you saw Tom Flanigan, Ithamar's understudy, performing his roles. Hope you had a good time!

ricklibrarian said...

Thank, Tim, for the clarifications. I did have a good time. Tom Flanigan did a great job filling in.